Category Archives: Downtown / Midtown Sacramento

“The Hall” an excerpt

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The Hall

It was clogged with bodies.  The hall.  None of them were hers but who could be sure.  This has been her life, her way for so many generations that sometimes she loses track of her kills, her conquests, her food.  She needs them.  Each and every one of them to survive, in order to exist at all.  There are times when everything is just a blur, one scream, one frantic imploration for salvation after another, for life, for saving.  The pleas meld into one another.  Over time, the years, the centuries the screams, the pleas all begin to sound the same.  The imploring voices all possess the same acoustic tonalities, the same pitch, the same sound carrying with them the same urgency… all saying the same things over and over and over again:  “please, go away.  You scare me.  They tell me that you are not real—that you don’t really exist, yet I see you day in and day out.  I have for years.  Please, just leave me alone!”

But these pleas, these solicitations for mercy always fall upon deaf ears, for you see… it is not up to her to select who is saved and who is not.  It is not her decision who is spared her madness, who lives and who dies in this dark, dark world from whence she dwells.  The role of God is not hers to play.  But, is that not the role she adopts when she does not answer the multitudes of requests to spare life, and instead, takes it?

The hall could, however, be filled with the carrion of another.  There are others like her you know; the ones that dwell in the dark.  The ones that thrive in the void of night conducting their business as if it were the appropriate thing to do.  Annoying—disturbing–Killing.  It is however, unlikely that the rotting flesh piling up in the hall belongs to anyone but she, for this is her house.  This is her realm.  Here, she makes the rules and in this house is where those who know her or are at least acquainted with her ways and give respect to her techniques because she is not only the ruler of the night but the day.  She is the ruler of lives, when those lives are unwilling or unable to contain her.

Beneath Evenly spaced cones of soft amber light she hunts.  That is the stage from whence the curtain of tonight’s performance will be raised.  Shadows dissolve and then solidify again as if in not doing so would negate their very existence as she traverses the intersecting alleys of the urban jungle that is her downtown Sacramento home on this night.  Perpetually, she makes her rounds.  Her nocturnal activities have gone undetected in so far as she could tell.  Except for that one incident on the east end of Capitol Park; the forty acres of lush flora that surround the California State Capitol building.  It was there, crumpled beneath the bronze statue of a soldier at the military memorial next to the rose garden he was found, as if freshly slain by the lifeless metal figure itself, its gaze fixed upon the bloody and equally lifeless man at its feet.  A blood splattered bronze bayonet clutched tightly in his right hand told the tale.  For all intents and purposes, this was an exceptionally brutal form of suicide, but she knew better and so did he… wherever he now was.  The events of that warm summer night in August of 2013 were unfortunate, but the night could not have concluded in any other way.  The deed had to be done.

Whatever the origin of their encounter with one another, he too was on a quest –trolling—when he happened upon her on that dark downtown street in the appropriately christened neighborhood of Alkali Flat.

After a brief exchange of pleasantries, they strolled.  Hand and hand as if they were familiar, and they were—intimately in fact, but not in the physical sense, although the heat of their pressed palms with fingers interlaced like high school sweethearts would suggest this.  To the outside world they were strangers in the night.  They strolled several blocks southwest until they came upon the old historic Biltmore Hotel.  Long ago abandoned she will never again know the folly of her heyday, the late nineteenth century… the Biltmore and her alike.  Hesitating momentarily before the ancient entrance, once grand and ornate but now a crumbling shell of her former self, she cast a glance over a shoulder as if in anticipation of receiving a sight… perchance a sound with which to reminisce.  Alas there was none.  Only fond memories of an era long ago lost to the industrial revolution and the never-ending march of progress.  The unfamiliar strangers, in expectation of becoming familiar if only for a few moments—hours perhaps, resumed their promenade.

What happened that night was wholly unintended, but compulsory…  unavoidable.  It had to be done.  The gavel fell.  The law of nature called her infinite courtroom to order setting in motion the events of a dark and metaphysical encounter, the likes of which would prove unprecedented for these streets.  For this city.  For the unsuspecting of these two formerly unfamiliar strangers.   For one, the evening’s journey had reached its destination.  The other, well… his journey’s end was reached as well… or perhaps, for him it had only just begun.

Book Launch

If Walls Could Write Cover - Jeffrey Johnston

Greetings friends, family, Web-based acquaintances and classmates of scholastic endeavors recent and yesteryear alike.  At long last my fevered writing pace has decelerated if only momentarily, but with it comes the product of my efforts.  I am pleased to announce that my debut fiction short story collection is finally complete and has been released.  If Walls Could Write and Other Stories is a collection of fifteen stories related to the human condition.

To my fellow Willow Glen High School alumni, it may interest you to learn that some of these stories are set in the Willow Glen neighborhood where I grew up.  One story in particular Driver’s Training, revolves around a W.G.H.S. Driver’s Training class that went horribly wrong.  A synopsis of the stories and a link to purchase both print and Kindle editions can be found by clicking on the “Books” page tab of my blog above and is also located on my Amazon Author Page.

My blog: www.jeffreyjohnston.net/books

Purchase from my Amazon author page (HERE).

To those of you who endured my MIA status from social events and my sporadic lack of attention to your needs, I offer my most sincere request for forgiveness.  I hope that you understand… I am a writer.  While a very gratifying existence, it is also a very solitary one.

Cheers

Jeffrey L. Johnston

2013, the Year in Reflection

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It is the first day of 2014 and I find myself reflecting on the previous year with a full heart and a smile of contentment on my face. Many positive things have occurred in my life during the preceding year. Attaining several personal goals that I had set for myself in my own life only affirm what I have known for a very long time… what I tell those who doubt their own capabilities; we can do anything that we set our minds to do. Nothing is beyond our reach if we are willing to put in the time and the effort to achieve our goals, reach for the stars and work hard for what we want.

I attained a very personal scholastic goal with the completion of my MFA in creative writing program. This, I must say, ranks highest on my list of achievements for the year, although I embarked on that path more than two years earlier. This accomplishment is followed closely by the completion of my debut short story collection If Walls Could Write and Other Stories which I expect to publish in early 2014. I also reached a milestone in photographic print sales in 2013, surpassing the $1000 mark in photographic art print sales. In 2013 I ran my first half marathon and logged over 82 hours running covering more than 409 miles. As a result of this and the other physical activities that I am involved in such as yoga and mountain biking, I am in the best physical condition of my life. I also started a new job in October that I love, and for the first time in years I actually look forward to going to work each day.

The past few years have not been without their challenges, but these challenges have been met with resilience and a determination to maintain my forward momentum. I am a firm believer that God will not place anything in our path that with faith and the help of those who love us, we cannot handle.

There is a quote by Henry Ford that I am fond of referring to. I have had it framed over my computer monitor at work for the past seven years. They are words to live by… words that I have been living by for some time now:
“Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford

If there is something in this world that you are passionate about, hunt it down and capture it. Life is far too short not to fill our time doing what we love… what makes us happy. I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions, but in the coming year I WILL devote more time to my passions in life.

I see great things in store for me in the upcoming year… I hope that each of you will find the same foresight for a prosperous future for your lives as well. Make your dreams come true in 2014… I am. – JLJ

Ghost Writers

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Ghost Writers

I needn’t come to terms with why I do the things that I do.  I know what I’m doing.  I am comfortable with it.  What is intuitive to one may seem a compulsory act by another.  Who is to say what makes up the intellectual interests of one mind over another, what fills the heart of one than another… to another?  This is not for me to say of others nor should it be the mission of others to say of me.  At this moment I am sitting in a cafe in the Oak Park neighborhood of Sacramento hunched over my computer, double mocha half reach to my right, doing what I love… I am writing.  Surrounded by like-minded souls in a cafe of an eerily similar name we gather each week for the same purpose.  Seeking, striving to attain the same goal which is not really a goal at all, per se… more a need.  For some of us, perhaps an obsession.  An obsession to write.  The product of my efforts, or hers; his; theirs, are unimportant to you.  They are all important to me… to us.  I write for the pure joy that the creation of life on the page gives me.  I write for the sake of dropping a dime on that little voice in my head that tells me that I have no time.  I have no desire.  I have no-thing to write.  To this voice I say nothing.  I pay it no heed, give it no power whatsoever as it has no power unless I empower it.

This is what we do.  This is who we are.  We are writers.  Ghostly images reflecting in a cafe window, the diminished opacity of our true selves seemingly negating our very existence… still… we write. – JLJ

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Forty Miles on the American River

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Today I changed up the routine a bit, took advantage of the beautiful weather and hit the river trail on my bike. Ahh, yes, fresh air, sunshine and solitude. Just what an ailing psyche needs after weeks of putting the needs of others before one’s own. My goal was to surpass the mileage of my previous ride, a milestone attained with far less effort than it had the last time I rode this trail.

Stopping to take a couple of photos on the river, I turned back at the twenty-mile mark and headed home to resume my supportive role of friendship. Then, it happened. Thirty miles into my forty miles on the American River, and still ten miles from home, the hypnotic drone of my dirt tires on the hot asphalt suddenly changed its tone… this could mean only one thing… I had a flat. This likely occurred during one of the three times I launched my mountain bike off the paved trail and onto a single track dirt path for a little off-roading.

In my haste to embark on this journey of self rejuvenation, I neglected to take a spare tube, my multi tool and enough water to sustain me had this unforeseen event occurred. Thankfully, my tire pump was mounted to the frame and after airing up each mile or so, I was able to ride another four miles before the tire would no longer take air.

My forty mile ride ended as a thirty-four mile ride and a six-mile walk… Still, this was a good day.

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Live. Love. Write.

Live.  Love.  Write.

Ah, yes… finally, the twisting, turning road of my scholastic endeavors that I have been meandering down has at long last delivered me to a mile stone in life, a point from which I must map my next journey, navigating once again to new and exciting destinations.

Live.

Love.

Write.

This is my mantra. A saying first seen on a decal somewhere… out there. An adage that now adorns the lid of my circa 2010 laptop, displayed proudly for all to see each time the mood strikes me, lifting her top in one public space or another to caress her keys, breathing life into the minion that inhabit my fictional stories, my beloved characters, living breathing things with lives that I create in the theatrical productions of my mind.

Imaginary worlds with illusory lives born of a distorted observation made through a raindrop streaked café window nestled in a tiny mountain town somewhere… out there.

Story lines imagined from scenes casually witnessed strolling along downtown streets, thwarting the unvarying, yet humble requests “can you spare some change.”

Requests made from soiled, weathered faces… familiar faces that have regularly infiltrated my peripheral vision over the years, only diversity being the depth of their creases—lines etched of years of hopelessness and despair.

Each day I escape. I must. I have for years; a compulsory break, if you will, from the monotony of the gray fabric walls that desire to restrain me, to hold me captive eight hours a day—five days a week. My escape is not so much an escape from as it is an escape to. A quest for the solitude of my own creative mind and to, if only momentarily satisfy my insatiable desire to rendezvous, to quench my thirst for the very intimate relationship I have with my laptop, her keys worn shiny and smooth from our incessant love-making…

Ah, yes, The Writing Life… Infinitely solitary… Intimately gratifying… If I do nothing else on this earth, I will continue my pursuit of my passions and…

Live.

Love.

  Write.

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Unmata, belly dance gone STRONG

When a friend of mine asked me if I would like to go check out some belly dancing in Midtown on Second Saturday, I thought to myself, sure that might be fun. I mean, I’ve seen belly dancing before and it was kind of cool, I guess. If nothing else, it would be nice to get out of the house on a warm summer night and see what’s happening in Midtown. She said that her daughter was one of the dancers performing and that I should meet her in front of their dance studio on 17th & K Street.

I jumped in my car and drove as close as I could get while still being able to find parking which is typically nonexistent on Second Saturday and even more elusive on a warm summer night as this was.

I wound up walking several blocks before reaching the studio where I expected to be mildly entertained with a traditional show as I had seen before. Rounding the corner, however, I was ill prepared for what I saw. This was no ordinary belly dancing troupe. There was fire, and swords, and tattoos, and hip-hop music, and flaming whips! I stood next to my friend in awe, mesmerized by the hypnotic motion and addictive energy of this beautiful spectacle of artistic originality.

Incorporating traditional belly dance with hula, hip-hop and other modern dance disciplines, Unmata lives up to their name and their own unique style which they appropriately describe as “belly dance gone STRONG.”

Take a look at this video and you’ll see what I mean.